Uva sees the light of the day
Lying inland from the coastal plain to the south of Nuwara Eliya, the
Uva province is blessed with its striking natural beauty. Climbing on to
the Namunukula peak on a clear day, the tallest among the mountain range
surrounding the Badulla town, one can view the Welimada basin,
Katharagama and the Hambantota beach. Be it the Beragala gap with its
breath-taking view, the Haputale mountain range, Dunhida, Diyaluma or
the Rawana falls, the Yala or the Gal Oya national parks, Uva is a
With an area of 8,488 square kilometres and bordered by Eastern,
Southern and Central provinces, Uva consists more of village communities
than towns. Unfortunately most of the development programs lined up for
this province for past sixty odd years in the post independent era, have
barely touched the dire situation the locality was facing. In 2006, with
the inception of the mega national development plan with a novel concept
under the umbrella of `Gama Neguma', rays of hope for a flourishing
future touched the lives of the people of the Moneragala and Badulla
With 1,117,353 people living in 886 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions in
both Moneragala and Badulla districts of which about 80% are farmers or
dependents on agriculture based industries.
"Under `Gama Neguma' projects we specifically highlight on the active
participation of the village community. It is their village and they as
beneficiaries, need to be a part and parcel of the entire process," said
R.A.A.K. Ranawaka, the Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Nation
Building and Estate Infrastructure, in-charge of the development in Uva
province. The Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure has
divided the country in to seven zones and each zone is administered
under an additional secretariat.
"In all the development activities taking place under 'Gama Neguma',
people contribute 20% of the entire work load," Ranawaka said.
Located 212.4 kilometres from Colombo, Badulla is the capital city of
Uva province. One of the most fertile districts of the country with a
wide variety of vegetable cultivation, Badulla with all its difficulties
continued its strong link with the national economy. Badulla district is
one of the major contributors to the country's vegetable consumer
With a total value of 533 million rupees, the `Gama Neguma' program
has initiated 1076 road development projects in 2008. Taking in to
account the contribution from the people, from material as well as from
trained and untrained labour, the value of community contribution was
enumerated as 110 million rupees.
"We developed 954 roads in Badulla district, from a basic gravel road
to a nicely finished concrete roads. The total length was 248 kilometres
- more than the distance from Colombo to Badulla!," Ranawaka added.
"Being in the hill country many parts of Badulla district was facing
unended problems with poor access roads," W.M. Jayasena, Director
(Planning) of the Badulla District Secretariat said. Hence, in the 2009
`Gama Neguma' development framework, more attention is given to the
development of rural access roads. "Many are farmers and they were
facing great difficulties in bringing their harvest to the main markets.
Rural irrigation schemes
"We were able to provide all the infrastructure facilities to expand
the area of arable lands for paddy cultivation," Ranawaka explained.
Water started flowing in to more areas creating more arable lands with
the repairing and reconstructing of reservoirs, irrigation canals and
anicuts. "We initiated 20 such projects under `Gama Neguma' at a cost of
17 million rupees. In addition, as we calculated community contribution
in these were valued seven million rupees," Ranawaka added.
According to the statistics available with the Kachcheri (District
Secretariat office) paddy is cultivated in 24,004 hectares of land.
Badulla district records an average of 126,000 metric tonnes of paddy
harvest. In the entire district a variety of vegetables are cultivated
in approximately 15,620 hectares and in 10,098 hectares perennial crops
are cultivated. Out of this, in one season, potatoes are cultivated in
2000 hectares, beans in 2200 hectares, tomato in 1000 hectares, cabbage
in 700 hectares, carrot in 400 ha, radish in 250 hectares etc. On an
average vegetables are grown in two seasons depending on the favourable
weather conditions. In Badulla, minor export crops are grown in 25,722
hectares which mainly include pepper, coffee and cinnamon in smaller
According to the Badulla district secretariat office the household
population below the poverty line was reduced to 23.7% during 2006-2007
period from 37.3% in 2002. Out of the total population in Badulla 66,923
families receive `Samurdhi' benefits.
"Several development programs upgrading infrastructure facilities,
schools, irrigation schemes are under way in almost each and every `Grama
Niladhari' divisions. For this year 249 projects are approved and
initiated so far," Jayasena said. Badulla consists of 567 Grama
Niladhari (GN) divisions. The `Gama Neguma' program is initiated jointly
by the District Secretariat office and the Samurdhi Authority under the
direct supervision of the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate
Infrastructure. In 2009, 435 GN Divisions are developed under the
District Secretariat with direct funding from the Ministry and the other
132 GN Divisions developed with funding from the Ministry recommended by
the Samurdhi Authority.
"Of all the development programs in 2008 people contributed 33% in
the 1st phase of the entire project and in the second phase we relieved
it to 20%. This proved us that people have become a part and parcel of
the entire development process," he added.
Moneragala district comprise 319 Grama Niladhari (GN) Divisions in
its 11 Divisional Secretariat (DS) Divisions. "Out of the total `Gama
Neguma' is on progress in 228 GN Divisions. 66 GN Divisions are
benefitted by the Samurdhi Authority," said Neil Fernando, Director
(Planning) of the Moneragala District Secretariat and Assistant
"Poverty level is quite high in the Moneragala district and
approximately 80% of the total population depend on agriculture,"
Additional Secretary Ranawaka of the Ministry of Nation Building and
Estate Infrastructure said that they focus 100% attention in developing
underprivileged schools, electricity supply and irrigation schemes in
The District Secretariat received 114 million rupees directly from
the Ministry of Nation Building while 33 million rupees to the Samurdhi
Authority for its development activities in 66 GN Divisions. "Members of
49,630 families receive Samurdhi beneficiaries and it is 42.05% of the
total population," Fernando stated. The Government spends 25.9 million
rupees per month to provide benefits for these Samurdhi families. "Under
the Samurdhi Authority 70 projects, mainly for livelihood development,
are conducted in these 66 GN Divisions which has a direct impact on 9889
families," Fernando stated further.
"We have identified 20 villages in the Uva province, 11 villages from
the Moneragala district and nine from the Badulla district, to be
developed as model villages," Ranawaka added. Under the `Maga Neguma'
development program all these villages will be completely developed by
the end of this year.
The nine villages in Badulla includes Malangamuwa, Maligathenna,
Wiyaluwa, Galauda, Dambane, Ambegoda, Belahinna, Nawila, Janathapura
North and Beraliyapola. "Presently almost all the projects are completed
in Dambane," added Fernando, Director (Planning) of Moneragala Kachcheri.
In addition `Diriya Piyasa' housing project provides houses for the
underprivileged families and widows. Houses are also provided to
families of war heroes under `Gama Neguma' development scheme. "In
addition to the Government contribution people donate material and
service to build these houses. Masons and carpenters work during the
night after their usual daily work. This sort of people's support is the
greatest strength for us in these projects," Fernando stated further
explaining the process. In Moneragala alone 78 houses are built under
the `Diriya Piyasa' housing project and in addition two more houses are
provided by donors on special requests.
In Moneragala district 11 villages are selected - namely
Raththanapitiya, Madamagama, Ruhunu Danawwa, Yalkumbura, Kalugahawadiya,
Ihawa, Galtemmandiya, Siripura, Kotaweheramankada, Kiriibbanwewa and
Karawile, to be developed as model villages.
"Moneragala has only road access. So far most of these roads were not
properly developed. Under the present national development projects the
road from Matara, Thanamalwila, Siyambalanduwa upto Karathivu is being
developed. And the two essential roads, Moneragala-Wellawaya and
Moneragala-Badulla roads, are on the process of getting upgraded,"
Fernando added. As the rural road system was not properly developed in
the era before 2006 farmers in particular transported their harvest to
the nearest main market Badulla with great difficulty. Hence, repairing
and reconstructing the rural road network will act as the base for the
entire economical growth of the area.
"Moneragala suffers from its unfavourable climatic conditions,
specially the agriculture sector," Director (Planning) Neil Fernando
explained. "There are several large reservoirs like in Handapangala and
Ethimale and the Kumbukkan oya, but many do not have an irrigation
system towards the cultivation lands within the district," Fernando
added. Hence, as the development program have already initiated,
abandoned irrigation systems should be renovated and reconstructed to
bring back the greenery to the arable lands.
Lighting up lives
Electricity was like a dream to a majority of the rural population in
Moneragala and Badulla districts. To developing nations like ours,
electricity is not just a power source. It greatly assists a family to
reach its goals brightening their lives.
According to the 2004 statistics 24.1% of the Badulla district
population lives without electricity. And in Moneragala approximately
half the population is not receiving electricity.
"We have already identified the villages that need electricity and
under the projects funded by the Iran Government we would be able to
completely provide the total requirement by end 2011," Fernando added.
In Moneragala number of schoolchildren is 85,000 and 5000 teachers
are serving in its 215 schools which includes eight national schools.
Badulla district has 571 schools of which 27 are national schools.
According to the 2006 statistics 178,027 children are studying in these
schools and 10,744 teachers serving.
Under the `Gama Neguma' project all the schools with temporary
buildings and infrastructure facilities will be completely provided with
modern facilities, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Nation
Building R.A.A.K. Ranawaka said.
Through these processes, `Gama Neguma' ensures that the commitment of
`Mahinda Chinthana' is realised whereby each village has basic
facilities such as electricity, proper road access, clean drinking
water, schools with adequate physical and human resources, health
centres, pre-schools, play grounds, community centres, market centres, `Nenasala'
IT centres etc. The key policy objective of the Government with regard
to rural development is to develop all villages in the country so that
they can emerge as micro centres of growth on modern lines. The
Government believes that our village can be developed to a decent and
comfortable level for the people to live, work and engage in their
cultural and communal activities while retaining its strength and
impressive features. For a long time, our country has been a land of
village communities. Large majority of the population live in the rural
areas. Therefore any development initiative should give due recognition
to this reality, if it is to be successful.